There are hundreds of travel guide books available, but none is quite as beautiful or human as Iranian-New Zealander artist Nabil Sabio Azadi's For You The Traveller. It's probably the best guide book we've ever seen - it's available in a strictly limited edition of 200, and its scarcity speaks to everything that separates print books from digital.
First of all, the cover is white recycled rabbit skin, soft to the touch with a precious, ancient feel. The binding is also beautiful, made from Tasmanian oak with small metal bolts and the quires fully visible.
Secondly, the design is stunning, using letterpress-style typography of varying sizes and orientation opposite handdrawn maps to create moments of creativity and stillness.
Most importantly, though, the content itself is so beautifully idiosyncratic and personal that it suggests a chart of the overriding emotions of its cities, whether talking about Pune in India, Copenhagen in Denmark, or Nakuru in Kenya.
As if that weren't enough, with each four-page recommendation is not only the name of its creator, a native in that city, but also their telephone number. Yes, you can call each of the writers, who live on all five continents, and, if they are so inclined, meet them.
According to Nabil,
They live in metropolitan cities and rural areas alike. They are metalworkers, scientists, builders, farmers, ecologists, urban designers, musicians, shipwrights, leatherworkers, political analysts and many other things. Some are old, others are young. What they have in common is that they trust you. If you share yourself with them, they will share their shelter, philosophy, and land with you.
This is less a guide book than a passport, granting the bearer permission to contact strangers who are open to sharing with you new experiences.
We decided to call one of them at random, and spoke to art director Golriz Lucina-Gundry in Los Angeles.
"I think it's such a fantastic, brave creation," she told us on the phone. "I loved this idea, and told Nabil that I'd write something for it."
He had reached out to her after she had befriended his sister, and she says that although she hasn't yet had a phone call from anyone who found her in the book, she's looking forward to the experience.
"I'll probably meet them at my favorite coffee shop near my house, and if we have a good vibe then maybe I'll help them find a place to stay or invite them to my house. I believe that the people drawn to a project like this are my tribe. My number is in safe hands."
There's no other book like it, and perhaps there never will be.
It's not cheap, however. For You The Traveller costs 155 euros (around 200 dollars), and all profits from its sale are donated to the charity Nouvelle Planète to fund the construction of five footbridges in the rural villages near Ambano, Madagascar.
What do you think about this idea? Would you travel this way? Let us know in the comments!
See photos of For You The Traveller below: